Review of Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D

By the end of 1998, polygonal 3D games were nothing new and games on rival platforms such as the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn had all gone into the third dimension. Could Nintendo really deliver the biggest game of all time and live up to the expectations? Sure up until then the Legend of Zelda featured a long and successful back catalogue, but pedigree can’t always guarantee success.

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time was known to be in development for around four years and at the time this was almost unheard of – as was missing the release deadline on more than one occasion. Back then the Internet was pretty basic and home broadband was years away. Nowadays could you imagine people buying a blockbuster video game without at least watching a trailer on YouTube? In the late 90’s all we had to go on were a handful of small and blurry screenshots from a magazine article.

There’s not too much I remember of December 1998 besides being locked in my bedroom with a Nintendo 64 and a copy of Ocarina of Time. Whilst normal people were gearing up for the holidays and were spending their time Christmas shopping; gamers all over the world were experiencing the biggest 3D gaming adventure to date. I’m still proud to say that I was one of those gamers!

So it’s been nearly thirteen whole years and this iconic game has finally returned fresh to a mass audience – yes it’s true that Ocarina was also available on Gamecube and Wii, but they were direct ports. The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D is the first (and probably last) time that the game has been remade almost from scratch.

Now it has to be said that re-releasing this iconic game is a brave move by Nintendo because Ocarina of Time is held in such high regard by millions of fans. Also can you imagine how stressful it must have been for Nintendo deciding where to draw the line between remake and re-release? Meddle around too much the those fans will turn nasty, then on the other hand if they don’t meddle enough they’ll be called lazy.

Well you’ll be glad to know that I personally think they have judged this to perfection. This is no quick cash-in and it’s plain to see that much time has been spent recrafting the visuals, controls and engine. Nintendo have not just released the original ROM or quickly added support for the 3D display. With the support of development studio Grezzo, the big N have taken the original back down to its very roots and rebuilt it from scratch. Before we get into the nitty gritty perhaps I should remind you what Ocarina of Time was all about, heck there’s even a chance some of you may have never played the game before!

You control Link, a young elf looking boy living Peter Pan style in Kokiri Forest with other elfy looking children. All except Link have a guardian fairy that hovers around them at all times; this as you can imagine has caused him to be somewhat of an outcast in the group. In the middle of this forest is a giant tree that resides over the Kokiri children and protects them from harm. He’s called the Great Deku Tree and just imagine him as a big wooden stepfather of sorts.

We don’t know much about his history but just by looking at the Deku Tree we can sense he’s very old, wise, and powerful. But something isn’t right, out of the blue the Deku Tree calls upon a fairy named Navi and instructs her to go fetch ‘The boy without a fairy’.

Turns out that the Great Deku Tree has been cursed by a mysterious sorcerer from the desert, the only way for the Deku Tree to survive is for Link to travel inside him and banish the nastiness from within. In other words; Link has to step into the Tree’s mouth and explore what turns out to be a dungeon filled with baddies, puzzles and a butt ugly boss that needs taking down.

From here your adventure takes off and you’ll soon leave the safe confines of Kikiri Forest with your new fairy, ready to step out into the land known as Hyrule. Prepare to explore vast areas and meet strange new races along the way. These include a race of yellow rock eating people who live in a volcano, as well as a race of legged dolphins, yes they live underwater of course.

The gameplay mainly consists of you controlling Child Link and Adult link in a time travelling action puzzle RPG; there are no guns to be had here. Good old fashioned sword fighting is the order of the day, well that and bit of bow and arrow action! Most of your time will be spent inside dungeons which is where nearly all of the action and puzzle play takes place; the puzzles themselves aren’t too complex and typically consist of you completing a task such as pushing and pulling blocks, lighting torches and flicking switches. Of course we best not forget to mention that you do get to play on an Ocarina, otherwise it would be a bit of a silly title.

Music is an essential part of the game, your Ocarina is a powerful tool and the songs played on it can affect the world greatly. You can turn night into day, sun into rain and even use it to communicate with animals and scarecrows.. Let’s be honest, most of you have played Ocarina before and just want to know what’s different or at the very least if this update is decent or not. Well let me put your mind at rest, The Legend of Zelda for 3DS is a must buy. The first for the brand new Nintendo 3DS console.

The game design, story and mechanics are pretty much untouched; just a few tweaks have been made inside the game. Most notably the Water Temple has been given a face-lift that makes it easier to navigate. Aside from that I the biggest game change was the toning down of the Great Fairies – there was a strong adult undertone whilst chatting with them in the original. The script has been rewritten and flows much better this time around, the translation from Japanese wasn’t bad in the original but this time around it doesn’t feel like a translation – if you know what I mean? The text also scrolls faster which is a blessing for those who can read at more than 10 words per minute.

Graphically the game looks just how you remember it, but better. The mind is a funny thing and really does play tricks with you. If you go back and look at the original now (and I did a couple of weeks ago) you’ll be really shocked how badly it has aged. Fuzzy and blurry textures, not to mention a framerate that barely stayed around 25fps. Thankfully here every single graphic has been recreated and looks amazing.

The power of the 3DS means that all new high res textures are possible as well as having extra oomph to render every object as a real 3D polygonal object; many scenes were actually 2D sprites or prerendered backgrounds originally. This really is what the game would have looked like at the time if the Nintendo 64 wasn’t crippled with a hardware design fault that gave developers less memory for graphical textures than the technically inferior Sony Playstation.

One area in which the game hasn’t been improved is with the audio, now don’t get me wrong – the soundtrack is still amazing. The original classic tunes are all there but don’t appear to have had any enhancement at all, supposedly all the music has been rerecorded alright, but with exactly the same artificial instruments. Crazy or what? I don’t know about you but I wanted a full orchestra to play, but that’s because I’m greedy.

Zelda and Nintendo veterans alike will know that the Nintendo 64 pad was originally designed with Mario 64 and Ocarina in mind; the Nintendo 3DS is versatile but feels very different in your hand. Playing this N64 classic on a 3DS feels very different just with the controls alone, the button placements are different and controlling the camera now uses the built in gyroscope (optional). Still they’ve done a good job making the most of the 3DS hardware but it’s no way near as comfortable as playing with the original pad with its trigger button and central analogue stick. But at least you now have access to weapons and items from the 3DS touchscreen, no longer will you have to regularly pause the game to switch items, weapons or clothing..

Okay I’ve avoided it long enough. This isn’t no ordinary remake, this is The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D. Featuring true eye popping 3D with the help of the fancy new tech inside the Nintendo 3DS. But does it make a difference? The honest answer is no, but wait – hear me out. First let me say the game looks stunning in 3D, the effect is amazing and really does bring the world to life in a way it could never have been done before. The sense of depth is really does make for a more realistic experience, just don’t go expecting the game to play different because of it because it doesn’t. I chose to play the game with 3D on full almost the entire time, only turning it off in frantic boss fights when I wanted to concentrate a little harder on the screen. I guarantee you will be happy playing with 3D on or off because the game looks great whichever you choose!

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D is the first (but not last) must own title on the Nintendo 3DS. One of the world’s best games reworked and even more fun to play in the 21st century, what’s there not to like? If you’re desperate for new content then the Master Quest mode is unlocked when you finish the game and there is even a boss rush mode for the true hardcore! Am I being a bit naughty in wishing that the cart featured Majora’s Mask too?

I only have one negative of the game and that there is no autosave. Nowadays we’re all used to video-games keeping our progress safe automatically with regular checkpoints. This game is still old-school baby and forgetting to save before switching the 3DS off will lose your progress – my advice, make sure to press start every time you do get into a new area or collect an important item. Scoring Ocarina of Time is very tough. The game was certainly worth of the perfect 10/10’s it got at the time and the game is still just as good now, perhaps even better. It’s funny to think that the once ‘most powerful console in the world’ actually held this game back due to its technical limitations – now with those gone, Ocarina 3D feels like the game is should have always been…but does that still warrant top marks? For me, yes – 10 out of 10.

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